Review by Grenadier

"The Pinnacle of Next-Gen RPG Gaming."

Few need to be told about the incredible lineage of the huge Final Fantasy series. It took long enough, but after the ninth game which brought FF back to its roots, Square has truly advanced FF far beyond what anyone ever hoped.

GAMEPLAY

Let me make one thing clear before I start: FFX breaks rules. There are countless rules that have always been within FF, and here many of them are broken. To begin with, FFX doesn't use the traditional ATB system with time bars that determine when battle participants may act. This has been replaced with what Square likes to call the CTB (Conditional Turn-based Battle) system. The name says it all. To simplify, the action is turn-based, but there are many factors which contribute to the turn order. When it's one of your characters' turns, you can see a window in the upper right of the screen which shows you the turn order. Certain abilities can modify the order greatly, and it's interesting to see how the gauge changes as you scroll through commands. Some commands, such as Overdrives (I'll explain this later) will result in more delay than others like Item.

The second (and HUGE) change is switching parties in battle (gasp!). Players can now freely switch the members of their three-character parties by simply pressing L1 and selecting the character to switch to. It allows you to easily level all characters evenly, remove wounded characters, get a healer to heal someone, get someone with a weapon of a different element. . .the list goes on. It's unnatural how often players catch themselves using it. It's also unnatural how difficult the game would be without it.

The third big change has to do with equipment. Weapons and armor no longer have stats. Instead, they have abilities (called Auto-Abilities) which can modify the user's stats, as well as add effects like Poison, Counterattack, Fire defense increments, etc. In fact, you can even add abilities to weapons with open slots and thus make them better.

The fourth big change is the summon spells. Instead of simply appearing, using their ability and disappearing, aeons (that's what they're called) actually take the place of the party and act as fully playable characters. The player can customize their stats and teach them abilities at will, as well as use the aeon's Overdrive. Ifrit, Shiva and Bahamut are still there, but there are additions, such as Magus Sisters, Ixion, Valefor and Yojimbo.

The Sphere Grid is the character development system. As characters gain S.Lvls, they can be expended to move the characters along nodes in the Grid, activating them to increase stats and learn abilities. While it seems at the beginning that characters are locked within a rigid job class, they eventually break out of it when their own path ends. At which point, they are free to go wherever they desire on the Grid, learning any abilities and increasing any stats that they wish. It's a wonderful system, which satisfies both the old school people who like job classes and the new school people who like customizable characters.

Overdrives replace Limit Breaks and Trances. They are similar to a blend of FFVII Limits and FFVIII Limits, in that they fill their gauges when the condition is met, and they have some way of becoming more powerful when used. The new feature is that instead of being stuck with the same condition at all times, the player can now change it. These are called Overdrive Modes, which are learned as the condition of the mode in question occurs over and over.

There are plenty of mini-games for the first time since FFVII. Instead of just one huge one like FFVIII and FFIX's card game, we now have stuff like blitzball, chocobo racing, etc. It definitely adds to the breaking of the repetition of battles and linearity.

Speaking of linearity, I refute any argument against FFX based on it. Sure, FFX is very linear, but when you consider it, it's really not all that different from the earlier games. In most of the earlier ones, you were supposed to travel a very rigid path. Often, you were stuck inside a valley in the world map or had a river on one side and a mountain range on the other to keep you moving in the proper direction. There's really little difference.

All in all, FFX has near flawless gameplay, with absolutely nothing I can say against it. Sure, no gameplay is perfect, but FFX comes pretty darn close.

OVERALL GAMEPLAY RATING: 10/10

GRAPHICS

If you've even glanced at a screenshot of FFX, you would know how good the graphics are. The textures are so detailed and the RAM management is done so well that there are few and very often no jaggies. Motion blur is very common, which further enriches the fantasy idea. After all, a fantasy story can't be too real.

The only problem with the graphics is the field animation. It does look stupid to see Tidus flail his arms wildly to try to defend against some measly Sinscales at the very beginning of the game, and there are other similar instances. Of course, this all changes once the battles start. Battle animation almost deserves the same level of praise as the gameplay does.

The mouth sync isn't quite as good as Square claims it is. Sure, Square claims on the back of the box that there's ''realistic facial animation'', but that's only in the Japanese version. In the North American version, the mouth sync is very often way off, with occasional well-done parts. It's really no problem, though, so it's nothing to worry about.

OVERALL GRAPHICS RATING: 9/10

SOUND

Well, we have the music, the sound effects, and the voice overs here. The first thing I have to say about the music is that it wasn't all made by the famous Nobuo Uematsu. It was done by three different composers, and it's fairly clear (if you listen closely) which ones were made by him and which weren't. The two new composers tend to make repetitive, uninteresting music. This is the only strike against the Sound score.

The sound effects are, in a word, wonderful. They even have the same detail and attention to little idiosyncrasies as the graphics do. For example, when Tidus slashes a normal enemy with his sword, you hear a generic slashing sound. When he hits an armored enemy, however, you hear little more than a clang that's perfectly expected in the situation. There are no problems with the sound effects.

Hey, here's another thing new to FF: the voice acting. FFX has voice overs for every single story scene in the game, and they're GOOD voice overs. Tidus is, ironic as it may be, the worst one. That's only when he gets tense and excited, of course. All the rest of the game, he's excellent.

Also, in a RPG with voice acting, usually the developer has the characters scream out the name of an ability that they're using in a battle. This does not happen in FFX, and thankfully. It makes characters sound like idiots, and more or less ruin the idea that the characters are real people. After all, if you devised a technique with a sword or something and named it Burst of Power, would you scream out ''BURST OF POWER!'' every time you used it? Instead, characters taunt the enemy the first time they used it. For example, when Lulu first casts Water, she asks casually, ''Anyone thirsty?'' Sometimes, when Wakka uses an Overdrive, he shouts out, ''Alright, you asked for it!'' They never sound overdramatic or too loud or anything.

OVERALL SOUND RATING: 8/10

STORY

Hey, this is a Final Fantasy game! What do you expect!? What we have here is a non-generic, huge and fantastic story with very few clichés and many plot twists. There's a huge surprise ending and a ton of action scenes all in the right places to keep the game interesting. The story's very well written, as someone might expect in any real RPG.

The story begins with Tidus at a blitzball game. He is a star player of the Zanarkand Abes, who is in the middle of a game when suddenly, the city of Zanarkand falls prey to Sin, a huge force of unknown origin. His mentor, Auron, leads him straight to Sin and pulls him into it. He wakes up in a ruin later, only to find that Zanarkand was destroyed a thousand years ago and the world has been plunged back in terms of technology. Everyone lived in fear of Sin. The plot seems like it would be generic, but there are many things which detract from it and make it truly original.

OVERALL STORY RATING: 10/10

REPLAY VALUE

This game is 40-50 hours long minimum. Add about 150 more for all of the side quests, and another 100 if you want to get your characters all the way over the Sphere Board. There's nothing to unlock, as in most RPG's, but there is so much to be done in a single game.

OVERALL REPLAY VALUE RATING: 10/10

FINAL SCORES:
GAMEPLAY: 10/10
GRAPHICS: 9/10
SOUND: 8/10
STORY: 10/10
REPLAY VALUE: 10/10


FINAL SCORE: 10/10

Comment: In FFX, we see the pinnacle of next-gen RPG gameplay. We have reached the tenth Final Fantasy game 12 years after it began, and it hasn't ended yet. Games this good don't come often. Play it, beat it, play it again, finish the side quests, beat it again. The fun just won't stop, no matter how many times you play it.

Change is good. It ends the seemingly interminable repetition of repeating gameplay, and introduces the entire gaming community to new things, allowing people to become attracted to new ideas and understand that there's more to FF than ATB and flashy summon spells.

Congratulations on a job well done, Square. And for God's sake, don't let it end anytime soon.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/28/01, Updated 12/28/01


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